'No': B.C.'s top doctor refuses to discuss possible COVID-19 fatality rate
VANCOUVER -- As Ontario health officials release grim and shocking predictions of the possible COVID-19 death toll in that province, the doctor overseeing British Columbia’s response won’t reveal the range she expects at home.
On Friday morning, the CEO of Ontario Public Health announced that he expects between 3,000 and 15,000 Ontarians will die from COVID-19, but also revealed their forecasting concluded that 100,000 could have died in the course of the pandemic had the provincial government not enforced a lockdown and other containment measures.
When asked whether she had a forecasted range of fatalities like Ontario had discussed, B.C.’s top doctor flatly answered, “no.”
Journalists have asked Dr. Bonnie Henry on several previous occasions if she had a number of possible deaths she was anticipating and she’d always skirted the issue, but her answer in the wake of Ontario’s announcement was more detailed.
“We do not predict it, modelling is not to predict,” said Henry in the legislature press theatre in Victoria. “Modelling gives you a sense of what could happen in different scenarios, and as we presented, the modelling we’ve done is really about how do we prepare so we can meet those scenarios no matter what happens, and our numbers tell the story of what happens.”
Ontario is experiencing a surge of infections, with Premier Doug Ford warning the province to prepare for 1,600 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the month. He insists transparency is critical in driving down that figure.
“You deserve to see the same numbers, you deserve to see the same information that I have,” insisted Ford. “What matters is that the ending of our story is still up to us…These forecasts are projections and they can change by your actions and with the government’s actions.”
The strategy from Queen's Park seems equal parts bracing people for what’s to come as it is scaring them into staying home.
Henry’s approach, in a province where she is cautiously optimistic we’re managing to flatten the curve of infections, is to avoid throwing out “what if” death rates that may never happen and have questionable value for a populace that appears to be largely following the rules around social distancing and hygiene.
“You can’t predict where this is going to erupt,” she said. “We all have our own pandemic that we’re moving through and even in different parts of B.C., it’s quite different. So in the Lower Mainland we know that the outbreak has been driven by, unfortunately, this virus getting into long-term care homes and particularly, too, that it got to [them] very early before it was recognized.”
She noted 24 of B.C.’s 35 COVID-19 fatalities have been in seniors’ care homes.
“You can’t model that, you can’t predict that, and so that’s why I don’t feel it’s particularly useful to use that as part of our modelling,” said Henry. “What we know is what sort of resources do we have so we give everyone the best chance of surviving this disease and also ensuring we have the health services and health care that’s available for everybody else who needs it at the same time, so that’s the approach we’ve taken here in B.C.”